Spring ball gives look into season of change


A lot of things are coming to an end this week.

Classes are done Friday. Spring football ends with the spring game at the Coliseum on Saturday, and the Daily Trojan’s last issue comes out Thursday.

Given this is the last football practice this paper will cover until August, it seems appropriate to glaze over, like a fine Krispy Kreme doughnut, the things we have learned over the last four weeks.

First, we have learned the early enrollees are deserving of the hype. Chicago-area wide receiver Kyle Prater is taller than the Sears Tower (it will always be the Sears Tower regardless of its current name) and secretly has a jar of peanut butter he stashes in his shorts because his hands are stickier than Charlotte’s web.

His roommate, freshman running back Dillon Baxter, has shown he can be a big-time contributor in the fall. On a Saturday a few weeks ago, with a darting and dashing run, he changed from an inconsistent freshman still trying to find his way to the next Reggie Bush. Granted, that 52-yard touchdown run was against mostly backups and walk-ons, but it still shows the speed and agility Baxter brings to the program. Something tells me we won’t be missing Joe McKnight.

Second, we have learned Lane Kiffin is no Pete Carroll protégé. Even though he worked under Carroll for five years in the early part of last decade, he has his own ways of going about things. Practices are no longer open to everyone. Discipline and accountability have replaced the loose Southern California cool as adjectives that describes the program. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Ms. Trunchbull replace Will Ferrell as the frequent guest of honor at practices.

Along those lines, special teams will be better at USC than it ever has been before. Under Carroll, special teams seemed to be more of an afterthought. But at the beginning of almost every practice, everyone on the team goes through various special teams drills. I mean everyone. A few weeks ago, the offensive and defensive linemen were catching punts. Who knows, maybe Kris O’Dowd’s speed is the best kept secret at USC, and he’ll be back returning punts.

We also learned we really don’t know anything about the secondary. The area with the most questions coming into spring practice has the most going out. With three players ­— redshirt junior Marshall Jones, junior Drew McAllister and redshirt sophomore cornerback Brian Baucham ­— likely to contend for a starting spot sidelined for most of spring practice, many former backups and walk-ons have been getting a lot of reps.

Dual sport athlete Jawanza Starling has gotten heaps of praise from secondary coach Willie Mack Garza, as have junior Daniel Harper and Shareece Wright, the only senior in the secondary. The group has managed to pick off multiple passes from Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain over the four scrimmages USC has had, but we’ll have to wait and see until the fall how the injuries and lack of experience shape USC’s defensive backfield.

We’ve learned Devon Kennard might be the next big thing at linebacker for the Trojans. Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan (who are all returning) got the marjority of the reps at linebacker last year. But Kennard, who is a converted defensive end, has emerged as one of the best players to come out of this spring. Kennard had eight tackles and a sack in Saturday’s scrimmage, and Kiffin said he “looks like an NFL player now.”

Lastly, we’ve learned the success the team has had this year will be determined by the play of the veterans. Barkley, senior tailback Allen Bradford, senior wide receiver Ronald Johnson, Wright, Galippo, O’Dowd and senior fullback Stanley Havili anchor the team that is very difficult to rank in the Pac-10 and in the nation.

Some days, it looks like this team could contend for a national title. Other days, it looks like it might visit the Emerald Bowl again. But it will be the play and the leadership of this core group of experienced players that will be indicative of this season.

There are many other things learned from spring practice but there’s not enough space here to list them all. We will know a lot more after the spring game on Saturday and once the season starts rolling in the fall semester.

One thing we do know is, with a new coach, a top recruiting class and a more mobile Barkley, this will be one of the most interesting and intriguing seasons USC football has seen in a while.

Is it August yet?

“Spittin’ Sports” ran Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Kenny

at klegan23@gmail.com.

  • Real Fan u Poser!

    Verbose convoluted old news,and really nothing we all didnt already know.
    Thank God Thursday is your last day!

    Try writting about something newsworthy for a change?

    Jordan Campbell for instance how about breaking a story on why and how he seems to be on the bubble of being thrown off the team? He has been on a zero tolerance track and may have violated it recently fro what I hear.

    How about being a true reporter and not worrying about potically kissing everyone’s ass around USC so you can continue to write your mundane fluff stories in the hopes of someday gettting some BS job wriiting sports up in Fresno! Grow some balls young Dude make a name for yourself!

    Who is the loser in the new coaching transition How Gallipo often times got lazy last year and mailed it in because he was hurt with his bad back.

    How Blake Ayles isnt living up to his potential coming out of high school.

    Why does Brice Butler lack the confidence to take his game to the next level?

    Has Kiffen banished Ausberry and Boyd into oblivion by switching their positions and will the same thing happen to the often hurt Gallipo this summer when the gerrymander him to the outside linebacker position because of Kennards most recent success?

    Will Kan and Manoogian ever see the grass during a game with Barkley, Scroggins, and Wittek there? Who will wind up odd man out destined to be the next Mustain after Barkley goes pro Scoggins or Wittek.

    , Willl Abe Markowitz one of the best offensive Centers to play at USC in a long long time (big non stop motor great attitude amazing size fantastic linage smart & adriot) will ever get a fair shot at starting for the Trojans. He had a full ride to Michigan State and would have been their starting Center by now.
    Someone needs to write about how good he has looked all spring. Maybe he just needs to grow his hair long and get some tribal tatoos on his arm before they take him seriously. Anyone watching knowes his game is there and then some

    s Seantreal Henderson going to be a Prima Donna from day one expecting special treatment becuase everyone has been kissing his overated butt fr so long in the hopes of landing this often times inconsistent oversized tackle. From the film I watched he takes many plays off and relys on his size to dominate in high school. that wont happen in the Big 10. The first time he gets yelled at or benched is he going to walk around practice like a wounded worrior with his ego all bent out of shape looking for the next bus out to go hme and play for the Golden Gophers?

    Is Dillion Baxter the Golden child and is Tyler going to be overlooked?

    Is Moody going to be overlooked?

    Is Markeith Ambles and Robert Woods at a dissadvantage by not enrolling early.

    Our kicking game was one of the worst in the Pac 10 last year. It is great we have landed the pinacle of special teams coaches but we are still destine to utilize the two pedestrian punter and Kicker from last year by letting Matt Darr get away.

    This is what i mean about going after the real stories out there instead of rehasing what everyone has heard over and over.

    Just being informed doesnt nessecarily make you a good reporter. Being able to take the real issues going on the team will. Don’t be afraid to be the straw in the drink you might suprise yourself and get a sports job in a top 50 market when graduating by doing so! Not to mention actually writting somethng we all just might want to read for a change!

    • From afar

      how about a story on what’s the deal with Real Fan u Poser….Chill out dude! Way too much time on your hands